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An impassioned biography of “a coherent and consistent thinker who adhered to his core political convictions across his...

The life of an early American statesman and president who served as the young nation’s strenuous conscience.

Traub (Foreign Policy/New York Univ.; The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did), 2008, etc.) thoroughly explores the life of John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), a “hard man” of deep erudition and conviction who descended from the American aristocracy and learned at the knees of an exacting father and mother what the great American governing principles meant for world leadership and peace. The author emphasizes his subject’s long, somewhat reluctant middle career as a diplomat, from his first posting in 1794 to the Hague to St. Petersburg and then to the Court of St. James during a turbulent time in European history. Breaking with his father’s Federalist Party over its Anglophilism at a time of trade and shipping tensions with Britain, Adams pursued an admirable, if tendentious, course of nonpartisanship over the course of his political career, from senator to secretary of state (under James Monroe) to one-term president to Massachusetts congressman (he was the first and only ex-president to serve in Congress). Traub examines how much Adams contributed to what became known as the Monroe Doctrine. “What Adams may have contributed most…was its astringency,” writes the author. Although Adams was a proponent of American expansion, he became intensely concerned at the question of admission of slave versus free states in the Missouri Compromise of 1820. During the latter part of his life as a congressman, he “seized the role of chief tormentor of the slavocracy” and represented in front of the Supreme Court the mutinous African captives aboard the Amistad. Most of all, Traub depicts a fully fleshed character, an extraordinary man driven by his birthright principles, a voluminous diarist, scholar, poet, polymath, eccentric, and iconoclast. The author also offers a masterly portrait of Adams’ wife, Louisa.

An impassioned biography of “a coherent and consistent thinker who adhered to his core political convictions across his decades of public service.”

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-02827-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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